US House Speaker
- January 9, 2023
- Posted by: OptimizeIAS Team
- Category: DPN Topics
US House Speaker
- After losing multiple votes for Speaker due to opposition from his own party, Republican leader Kevin McCarthy finally became the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.
- In a five-day-long saga, which was the longest speakership election in 160 years, the California Republican finally managed to garner enough support to win the top job.
Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
- The US Constitution established the role of Speaker of the House, which oversees the lower chamber of Congress.
- The Speaker is both traditionally and historically a sitting member of the majority party, though this is not a constitutional requirement.
- Therefore, in addition to leading the House of Representatives, they are also leader of the majority party in the chamber.
Role of the Speaker
- At a practical level, the Speaker:
- sets the House’s legislative agenda,
- controls committee assignments,
- sets the vote and work calendar, and
- is responsible for keeping their party members unified behind major initiatives.
- The Speaker is second in line for the presidency, following the Vice-President, in the event of the President being incapable of continuing in office.
Significance of the speaker
- Depending on the partisan makeup of Congress, they can make or break a US president’s agenda, stymie opposition, and spearhead their party’s biggest legislative initiatives.
- A shrewd and effective Speaker will be able to marshal their members behind their party’s agenda, and control rebellious lawmakers by doling out incentives or punishments.
Selection process for the Speaker
No House without a speaker
- The House of Representatives functions on a two-year cycle, known as a “session.”
- The mid-term elections were held in the United States on 8 November, 2022.
- The new Congress began on 3 January 2023 and Republicans will be in the majority.
- The very first thing a new session of the House of Representatives must do is vote for a Speaker of the House.
- Without that person in place, the chamber cannot move on to any other function, including swearing-in members.
- The chamber must continue to hold votes until a Speaker is elected.
Nomination for Speaker
- In the weeks after an election, the Republican conference and the Democratic caucus hold an informal vote among their members.
- This voting is done to decide who they want to nominate to lead their party.
- But members are not obligated to vote for the party’s chosen candidate.
- While it has been the tradition for the speaker candidate to be a member of the House, it is not required.
- The vote for Speaker requires a candidate to receive the support of a majority of the House – 218 votes (out of the 435 members of the House).
- The existing leader of the majority party is usually presumed to be the person to assume the speakership.
- For more than a century, the Speaker of the House was decided on the first vote.
- However, this time, a record-making 15 voting rounds were conducted before McCarthy succeeded in acquiring the Speaker’s gavel.